Review: Prince of Persia: The Fallen King

PrinceOfPersiaTheFallenKing.jpg Alongside the PC and console rebirth of the Prince of Persia series comes a complimentary spin-off for the DS called Prince of Persia: The Fallen King. Given how little Ubisoft promoted this title (it doesn’t even have a listing on their official website that I can find), you’d probably think it’s a dud. But au contraire, it’s actually a surprisingly remarkable portable adventure that if not for glaring polish issues could’ve been something very special.

The Fallen King actually picks up off of the ending events of the PC and console game with the Prince continuing his fight against Ahriman and his Corruption plague. But don’t worry, you really don’t need to have played the main game to know what’s going on, nor do you necessarily have to play this to gain greater understanding of the main game. The story functions independently, and is fairly engaging. Not nearly as much without the interactions between Prince and Elika of course, but still enough to keep you striving forward to see how the tale unfolds.

As a 2D side-scrolling action/platformer, The Fallen King carries on the proud tradition of the original Prince of Persia and greatly expands upon it with an intriguing new control concept. Everything in the game is controlled with the stylus. You tap and hold on the touch screen to make Prince run or walk, double tap to roll, tap a wall to run up it and then tap back and forth between adjacent walls to wall jump, point to the opposite side of a pit to hop across, et cetera et cetera.

The Prince also has a new companion in the form of the magus Zal. By holding down any button on the DS – I found the d-pad most comfortable for me – you swap control to Zal and are able to use his magic abilities. Zal is partially corrupted, you see, so he can manipulate Corruption within the environment to aid in the Prince’s quest. This manipulation takes many forms, from pulling on gooey strands of Corruption to use as grabbers that can pick up impeding obstacles, to carefully lifting balls of explosive Corruption and slamming them to break through cracked walls, to rubbing on corrupted surfaces to freeze the Corruption for a short time so the Prince can proceed unscathed. The game’s 50+ levels are designed quite creatively around all of these abilities too, and new puzzle and platforming wrinkles are always being introduced all the way through to the final stage.

Some inconsistencies do exist, such as stylus input not registering properly, thus sending the Prince plummeting to his death through no fault of your own. But for or the most part these touch-screen controls are amazingly intuitive, and the Prince’s corresponding movements are as fluid and graceful as they’ve always been in the main console/PC titles. There’s a minor learning curve for the first couple stages, but that’s to be expected when a game tries something new.

But sadly, all of the good The Fallen King accomplishes is crippled by some severe technical problems, including crashes, glitches and brutal slowdown. The former problems are pretty rare – the game only locked up on me once, and a couple of times I went to wall run and the Prince sort of warped through the wall – but the latter issue, the slowdown, is prevalent throughout the entire game and really drags the experience down. The frame rate chugs the most during combat. When two enemies pop up on screen at the same time the game literally slows to a crawl. The combat is so simple that it doesn’t really matter too much, but still, it’s not fun playing a game that at times moves in slow motion. I don’t quite understand how these issues exist either because the graphics aren’t that spectacular. The art style and overall look of the game is excellent – I actually liked the cutesy look of the Prince more than I thought I would — but the actual 3D rendering is pretty mediocre, even for a DS game. So if the graphics aren’t exactly pushing the hardware it doesn’t make sense that the frame rate is so inconsistent. Chalk it up to a rushed development cycle and poor optimization I suppose.

All in all, The Fallen King is a good companion piece to the new Prince of Persia and a solid side-scrolling platform game on its own. The technical shortcomings are, however, far too prominent for me to honestly recommend this game as much as I really would’ve liked and as much as the bulk of the game deserves. But if you can cope with the buggy performance The Fallen King is very much worth checking out.

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Pros:
+ Intuitive touch-screen control scheme
+ Excellent level designs
+ Charming art style

Cons:
– Terrible slowdown bogs the gameplay down far too often
– Overall lack of polish is extremely disappointing

Game Info:
Platform: DS
Publisher: Ubisoft
Developer: Ubisoft
Release Date: 12/2/08
Genre: 2D Action/Platform
ESRB Rating: Everyone
Players: 1

About the Author

Matt Litten is the full-time editor and owner of VGBlogger.com. He is responsible for maintaining the day to day operation of the site, editing all staff content before it is published, and contributing regular news, reviews, previews and other articles. Matt landed his first gig in the video game review business writing for the now-defunct website BonusStage.com. After the sad and untimely close of BonusStage, the former staff went on to found VGBlogger.com. After a short stint as US Site Manager for AceGamez, Matt assumed full ownership over VGBlogger, and to this day he is dedicated to making it one of the top video game blogs in all the blogosphere. Matt is a fair-minded reviewer and lover of games of all platforms and types, big or small, hyped or niche, big-budget or indie. But that doesn't mean he will let poor games slide without a good thrashing when necessary!